“Prost!” we cheered, hoisting our mugs that Oktoberfest evening in Munich. It was the German version of its counterpart toasts around the world—“Cheers!” “Salute!” “Santé!” With that we clunked our mugs in unison (real mugs don’t clink), binding us together for a fun time of pretzels, hops, people and song.
In a far different place and time, gathering friends also lifted a cup. “Drink from it, all of you,” Jesus said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”1 He spoke of a true and lasting oneness, the universal bond of all who would rest their soul in Him. Still today, we celebrate “communion,” a gathering together of believers to participate in Him who unites us to Himself. But does Jesus’ church really worship as one, or have we let worldly disputes separate “all of you” into smaller subsets of “some of us”? It’s a rhetorical question; I think we know the answer. And gathering as a people divided is to commune “in an unworthy manner,” warns Paul; to do so is “sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.”2 Peace is paramount to God.
So, what do we do? Certainly finger-pointing, hand-wringing and towel-throwing get us nowhere. I think a friend of mine, Michael Young, has an answer. Senior pastor of a largely African-American congregation, Michael convenes open town-hall meetings at his church, inviting community leaders with different vantage points—clergy, police, elected officials, business people—to share their thoughts and to listen to the collective hearts and voices of all gathered there. The purpose is not to assert one opinion over others, but to meet deeper needs: of hearing and being heard, of understanding and being understood, of airing perceptions and addressing misperceptions, of looking up from that which divides us and embracing the aspirations we all share in common—the desires of the soul only the Son of God can meet.
Oneness takes work. It calls us to humility, wisdom, perseverance and faith, for “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against … powers of this dark world and … spiritual forces of evil.”3 My friend has chosen to look up to Christ who unites us and stand with Him against the enemy who wishes only to divide and destroy us. His resolve silently begs the question of us, “What about all of you?”
Father, I’m far too willing to be one with you but divided from my neighbor. Give me the humility, patience and desire to unite with my brothers and sisters in Christ against any enemy who would separate us. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Christ in me is peace.
Read today’s Scripture in Matthew 26:26-30.
1 Matthew 26:27, 28
2 1 Corinthians 11:18, 27
3 Ephesians 6:12